“We already tried that.” “That won’t work.” “That will never happen here.” Nothing will ever work according to these common comments made by the Naysayer. Or how about Sarcasm, the Naysayer’s witty cousin, who says: “Yeah right.” “Dream on.” “Good luck with that.”
These roles and similar ones can hinder a group’s process by diverting the attention away from achieving the goal. The focus shifts away from collaboration and turns to controlling the disruptive actions of those behaving badly.
Your ability to say what you mean and mean what you say—in a nice way—will truly be tested. Your response must mitigate the counterproductive impact of the detractor while also allowing the person to save face. You may have heard the tried-and-true management adage: Praise in public and criticize in private. Yet, this situation requires real-time sharing of something akin to criticism in public, in front of the person’s peers.
It may help if we can identify—and even empathize—with those who are not 100% onboard. What?!! Give a nod to the naysayer? Support sarcasm? Yes, because sometimes we are them: the pain-in-the-butt board member resisting the group’s efforts at every turn. The supervisor who uses sarcasm to express frustration with upper management’s lack of support. I suspect we can all relate to the following reasons for going rogue and removing ourselves—at least mentally—from the group:
- Didn’t sign on for that team or project in the first place
- Don’t see the point of the project or meeting, waste of time
- Enthusiasm squashed after ideas repeatedly rejected
- Resent group leader not handling other negative behavior
- Poorly run project or team is de-motivating
It’s embarrassing to admit that we sometimes are the negative influence in a group. Yet, it’s important to be aware of it so that we can snap out of it before we let it derail our career and our relationships. A good clue we’re about to disengage mentally and possibly act ugly is when we hear ourselves say “fine,” “whatever” or “I don’t care.”
Reminding ourselves of those times when we’ve disengaged from a group or project may also help us better empathize and understand when we witness a similar reaction in others. And while it’s essential to correct divisive and distracting behavior quickly, it’s also an opportunity to examine the concerns more closely. This will ensure the group isn’t overlooking a critical issue. You might even choose to play the role of “devil’s advocate” yourself to help other team members become aware of important issues that need to be addressed by the group.
The next time you encounter Sarcasm or the Naysayer, give them the nod with these nice responses to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one:
“We already tried that.” “That won’t work.” “That will never happen here.”
“In your opinion, what can we do to avoid what went wrong before?”
“I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on how we can make it work.”
“What would you like to see happen?”
Sarcasm – Naysayer’s witty cousin:
“Yeah right.” “Dream on.” “Good luck with that.”
“Sounds like there have been problems with this. Can you fill us in?”
“I’m hearing some serious doubts. What are your concerns?”
“I’m curious, what are the challenges and what do you think we should do?”
[Excerpted from Sarita’s new book Say What You Mean in a Nice Way available on Amazon.]
Sarita Maybin is a keynote speaker at IPMA’s 2022 Educational Conference. She will present “Say What You Mean in a Nice Way: Communicating with Kindness and Compassion.”
Sarita Maybin is an international speaker and communication expert whose audiences have fun learning how to stay positive, confront tough communication challenges and work together better! Sarita is a former university dean of students, a past chapter president of the National Speakers Association and a TEDx speaker. She has been interviewed by the media about her book If You Can’t Say Something Nice, What DO You Say?